THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
PROJECT SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS NATIONAL CONFERENCE
THURSDAY, JUNE 17, 2004
KANSAS CITY, MO
Good evening. I hope all of you are finding the conference interesting and rewarding. There is a wealth of information and assistance available to you, to help you customize your community's approach to reducing gun violence.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a key element in the Bush Administration's crime-fighting strategy. The Administration has devoted more than one billion dollars to the program since 2001. Funds have been used to:
Under the Community Gun Violence Prosecution Program, for example, OJP's Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded $63 million to support more than 540 local prosecutors in 311 jurisdictions. Through two other PSN components - Project Sentry and the Reducing Community Gun Violence program - BJA over the last three years has awarded $121 million to help communities combat juvenile gun violence, and to design and implement innovative gun violence reduction strategies. We have learned over the years that these strategies must go beyond just the traditional approach of processing cases, in order to be truly successful in the end-game: actually reducing the occurrence of gun violence in our communities.
So BJA also has awarded $31 million to help community partnerships collect and analyze data, in order to measure the effectiveness of their strategies; and improve community outreach through the media, to send a clear message that gun crime leads to hard time. In addition, we have provided $25 million for a national training and technical assistance program that equips law enforcement officers and prosecutors with the tools they need to manage gun crime cases in a strategic, effective way.
And our support is paying dividends. Federal firearms prosecutions have increases 68 percent in the last three fiscal years. And once convicted, offenders are serving hard time. 72 percent of offenders last year were sentenced to prison terms greater than three years.
We have stories testifying to the success of the PSN strategy. In California, a two-year investigation of the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang resulted in the purchase and seizure of 95 firearms, including machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and assault rifles. It also led both state and federal charges against the gang's members and associates.
In Florida, Operation HALT the Violence is responsible for the apprehension and sentencing of David Owenby, a previously convicted felon. After a pipe bomb was found near an apartment complex in Brevard County, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), acting on tips revealed during the sheriff's investigation, obtained a search warrant for Owenby's apartment. There, agents found two rifles, ammunition, lengths of cannon fuse, containers of powder, and two grenades - one of which was live. Owenby was arrested, pled guilty to firearms violations, and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.
And we are not just adding up numbers of prosecutions - we are seeing actual reductions in gun violence, which is the outcome toward which we strive. Each of our PSN efforts has as a critical element the measurement of real results. Right here in Kansas City, for example, federal prosecutions increased by 26 percent in the first year of funding, and tellingly, the murder rate dropped 23 percent to its lowest level in three decades. Thanks to the program's success, 27 lives were saved in that time.
But Project Safe Neighborhoods is not only about protecting our citizens form the criminal use of guns. It is also about protecting America's citizens, especially our children, form inadvertent injury through misuse of legally-owned weapons. Another part of President Bush's anti-gun violence initiative Project ChildSafe, is a firearm safety education program that teaches gun owners how to store and handle their weapons safely. Over the last three years, $80 million has been dedicated to this program, through which safety kits containing free trigger locks and safety information are distributed to communities across the nation. Project ChildSafe has distributed more than 19 million kits to 50 states and visited some 13,000 communities to provide training. We are well on our way to the President's goal of providing free locks for every handgun in America, and that is good news, indeed.
I want to mention another key component of the Administration's community building efforts. At the Office of Justice Programs, earlier this year we announced the establishment of our new Community Capacity Development Office. This office incorporates the highly successful Weed and Seed Program, and seeks to apply the strategic planning, community-driven approach of Weed and Seed to many other efforts in which we are involved. The new office will be led by Nelson Hernandez.
We now have more than 300 Weed and Seed sites throughout the country. As you well know, Weed and Seed strategies create community partnerships to revitalize neighborhoods that are challenged by high crime rates, making them safe, healthy places to live, work and raise a family. Strategies for reducing crime in Weed and Seed sites in turn incorporate Project Safe Neighborhoods programs. Put another way, we see Project Safe Neighborhoods as an essential part of the "weeding" aspect of Weed and Seed. I salute the efforts of our U.S. Attorneys, who work closely with the community and neighborhood leaders to coordinate both the Weed and Seed and Project Safe Neighborhoods efforts.
I now have the honor and privilege of introducing our next speaker. Prior to becoming Deputy Attorney General, Jim Comey served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York form January 2002 to the time of his confirmation in December 2003. Before that, he served as Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. It was there that he began Project Exile, a forerunner to Project Safe Neighborhoods. Under his leadership, Project Exile was credited with reducing homicides in Richmond by 40 percent in its first year. We are fortunate to have the benefit of his knowledge and experience, and we are please that he could join us this evening.
Now we will begin the award segment of our program. To do the honors, I am privileged to introduce the President of the National District Attorneys Association, Robert P. McCulloch (Muh-cull-uck). Mr. McCulloch began his career as a clerk for the Honorable Joseph G. Stewart of the Missouri Court of Appeals. In 1978, he joined the St. Louis County Prosecutors, Office as an assistant attorney.
Mr. McCulloch has served as the elected prosecuting attorney of St. Louis County since 1991, and is past president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. He has also served as co0chair of the NDAA's Crime Control Committee and chair of its National Advocacy Center Oversight Committee.
Please welcome NDAA President, Bob McCulloch.
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Thank you, Chief Glidden. Thank you, Bob. And congratulations to our honorees. I think they deserve another round of applause.
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Our award winners have demonstrated why President Bush and the Department of Justice are so committed to Project Safe Neighborhoods. It is through the kinds of partnerships that it encourages - partnerships at all levels of government - that we have the best hope of finding a solution to the problem of violence in our communities. I have been inspired by their example, and I hope that you will join me in a rededication to the mission of PSN.
Before we conclude, let me ask Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey to come back for one final presentation.
Deputy Attorney General Comey.